Remembering Steve Rader, who embodied kindness, generosity and wisdom

Steve touched countless lives through his work as a psychiatrist in county mental health, as a devoted friend and loving husband, father, grandfather and a father figure to many.

Steve Rader
Steve Rader. Photo: Courtesy family

Stephen David Rader — Oct. 17, 1934 – Nov. 1, 2020

Steve Rader was an embodiment of kindness, generosity and wisdom. He touched countless lives through his work as a psychiatrist in county mental health, as a devoted friend and loving husband, father, grandfather and father figure to many.

Over his last weeks, the family received many beautiful reflections from people of how conversations with Steve had affected the course of their lives.

Stephen David Rader was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Oct. 17, 1934, to Edith and Irving Rader. He had one younger brother, Bill, who died earlier this year. Steve passed away after a short illness, surrounded by his family, at his daughter’s home in Berkeley on Nov. 1.


Steve attended James Madison High School and Lafayette College and graduated from medical school at the University of Buffalo. While in medical school, Steve married Wilma Kaufman in 1959. He served in the army as a medical officer with a tank battalion and was stationed in West Germany with Wilma and their baby son, Andrew, from 1962–1963. Twin daughters, Allison and Jennifer, were born in 1964, during Steve’s medical residency in Brooklyn at Kings County Hospital.

In the summer of 1965, Steve traveled to Selma, Alabama, with the Medical Committee for Human Rights to visit jails and hospitals in order to ensure that activists involved in voter registration received necessary medical care and were not abused by the authorities.

In 1967, the family moved to California, where, from 1967–1970, Steve served as a flight surgeon and psychiatrist at Travis Air Force Base.

The family moved to Berkeley in 1970.

Until his retirement at the age of 80 in 2014, Steve spent his career serving the community as a psychiatrist, first in private practice, and then in public mental health for more than 30 years. He most enjoyed the many years he spent at the Concord Adult Mental Health Clinic. His colleagues became a circle of close friends, and he discovered there his true calling in serving people who struggled with severe and persistent mental illness. Steve gave his personal cell phone number to his patients and would call them in the evenings himself to remind them of their scheduled appointments the next day. Steve twice won an award as Mental Health Provider of the Year in Contra Costa County, selected by mental health clients and their families. He was the first psychiatrist to receive this award.

Steve loved his friends. Steve loved his kids’ friends. Steve loved people, and he always saw the good in them. He treated everyone with care and respect. Whether it was another physician, a nurse, a patient or custodian — that person felt Steve’s care for them.

He loved to laugh, and he loved comedy: slapstick, Borscht Belt, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Flip Wilson, Bob Newhart… It’s a long list. Steve was also a consummate joke teller. He was a raconteur who loved to tell stories. He would come home from a day at work and hold court at the head of the family kitchen table, telling stories of people whose stories are rarely told.

He enjoyed taking friends out to sail on the Bay and exploring the Delta. He also loved spending time alone on his boat, smoking a cigar and sipping his Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry after spending hours sanding and varnishing. Trips to the hardware or marine supply stores were his idea of a good time. The first time he met Wilma, his wife of 61 years, was at a neighborhood hardware store in Flatbush.

Steve and Wilma moved to Piedmont Gardens in Oakland in 2016, where Steve made close friends and they found a wonderful community. In his last years, Steve enjoyed reading Jack London aloud to his family and deepened into his lifelong love of old movies, and reading anything he could about Albert Einstein, the Civil War and World War II.

Steve was a deeply grateful person, and in this last year he often reflected aloud on the blessings and good fortune of his life. Steve is survived by his wife, Wilma, his children, Andrew (Shanna), Allison (David) and Jenn (Barb), his grandchildren, Kaija (Max), Leila, Nadov, Elijah and Ben along with loving sisters-in-law, nieces, a nephew and extended family.

Donations in memory of Steve may be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Contra Costa County (click the memorial gift box, adding Steve Rader), and the Putnam Clubhouse in Concord. Steve worked closely with both of these organizations over many years and believed deeply in their missions.